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National & State Symbols
New Hampshire State Seal
Great Seal of the State of New Hampshire
Adopted in 1931.
The State of New Hampshire has held two seals since it declared its independence from Great Britain on January 5, 1776. While both seals have been retained, most people are only familiar with the Great Seal due to its corporate use.
The seal was first created in 1775 by the First Provincial Congress. The second Great Seal for the state of New Hampshire was adopted in 1931.
New Hampshire has had a state seal for more than 200 years, but its present form is only 50 years old.
New Hampshire Great Seal
The seal was first created in 1775 by the First Provincial Congress. It comprised a pine tree and an upright fish, on each side of a bundle of five arrows. The design reflected the state's then two major economic resources, and the arrows symbolized the strength of unity among the then five counties.
When the present state constitution became effective in 1784, the new Legislature revised the seal, to depict a ship on stocks, with a rising sun in the background, to reflect Portsmouth having become a major shipbuilding center during the war years. Various items for shipment were also shown on a frontal dock.
Details of this 1784 seal became so distorted in the ensuing century and a half that the 1931 Legislature voted major improvements, and, or the first time, spelled out its makeup. Director Otis G. Hammond of the New Hampshire Historical Society sparked this adjustment, by reporting that artists and sketchers had injected surprising details into the seal, as they produced new dies every few years for official state use. They produced rum barrels on the dock, and, on occasion, even human beings beside them.
When Governor John G. Winant of Concord launched a second term in 1931, he named a committee to serve with Hammond, to produce a less objectionable seal. The 1931 Legislature readily approved its recommendations.
Historic Warship Honored. The frigate Raleigh, built at Portsmouth in 1776, as one of the first 13 warships sponsored by the Continental Congress for a new American navy, became the centerpiece of the 1931 seal. The figure 1784 on the old seal was changed to 1776. The old Latin phrase "Neo Hantoniensis 1784 Sigillum Republica" around the circular seal was replaced with "Seal of the state of New Hampshire 1776." The 1931 seal law spelled out that only a granite boulder could be shown in the foreground, as symbolic of the Granite State's rugged terrain and the character of its citizenry.
The Raleigh has a checkered career of adversities, while becoming the first to carry the American flag into sea battle. She was unable to go to sea for 15 months for lack of armament, and after her first voyage to France for munitions, her captain was dismissed for incompentency. Soon thereafter she was beached off Maine, captured by British warships, and used for the remainder of the Revolutionary War against her own country.
Captain John F. Rowe (USN retired) of Newington resurrected the life and lore of the Raleigh in recent years. The British liked the sturdiness of the frigate so much that they sketched its construction details, to build others like it, and Captain Rowe obtained the drawings from London, to enable him to paint the Raleigh in all its pristine glory. And when Governor Hugh J. Gallen and his Executive Council celebrated the 300th anniversary of New Hampshire's state government, Publisher William Loeb of the Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News purchased an enlarged portrait of the Raleigh, by Captain Rowe, and presented it to the state for permanent display in the State House.
New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (RSA) 3:9
State Seal Law of 1931
The 1931 State Seal law placed the frigate Raleigh as the centerpiece of the new seal. The Raleigh was built in Portsmouth in 1776, as one of the first 13 warships sponsored by the Continental Congress for a new American navy. The law declared the seal to be 2 inches in diameter bearing the new inscription, SEAL • OF • THE • STATE • OF • NEW HAMPSHIRE, replacing the Latin phrase Sigillum Republica Neo Hantoniensis. The law also declared that only a granite boulder could be shown in the foreground.
New Hampshire Statutes
In days when communications were transcribed by hand and tediously undertaken, seals served to authenticate official government documents. In this day of computers and instant communications, seals still serve the same purpose.